Asthma Meds: Moving Toward Greater Understanding

PharmHow well do you understand your child’s asthma medications? Do you know how often they are to be taken, how to use an inhaler correctly, and how the medication can help control symptoms? Many parents don’t, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers surveyed parents of 740 children with probable persistent asthma and compared their responses with their doctors. They found nearly half of the parents did not know the medication class or the frequency the medication was to be administered.

Among the parents of children prescribed asthma medication, 29 percent did not understand inhaled corticosteroids; 16 percent did not understand a combination of inhaled corticosteroid and long-acting bronchodilator; and 10 percent did not understand leukotriene antagonists.

Another key finding: 27 percent of parents of children on daily inhaled corticosteroids did not know their child was supposed to use it every day, and more than half of those supposed to use the medicine only during asthma flares didn’t follow directions.

The research suggests greater communication is needed between patients and healthcare providers, especially when discussing inhaled corticosteroids, says the study’s primary author Ann Chen Wu, MD, of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. 

“A mismatch between parents and provider was more likely to happen if the parents felt the medicine was not helping, or conversely, if the parent believed their child did not need as much as prescribed,” Dr. Wu says.

Allergy & Asthma Network offers educational resources for parents and healthcare professionals alike, including a series of posters that detail asthma medications. Check out the Respiratory Inhalers At a Glance and the Respiratory Inhalers Side by Side posters. The Respiratory Inhalers At a Glance poster is also available in Spanish.

Our Understanding Asthma special publication is a practical guide to help families recognize signs and symptoms, learn the different types of asthma medications, how to use an inhaler, and more.